Built in 1521, San Juan Cathedral (Catedral de San Juan Bautista) is one of the highlights of Old San Juan. The second-oldest cathedral in the Americas, this landmark in the heart of Old San Juan has an impressive array of religious and historical artifacts. The church is still operational, with services held throughout the week.
Experience a traditional Catholic Mass or, when no service is being conducted, wander the nave free of charge, gaze at the huge stained glass windows, and take in the construction of the oldest church on US soil. Among its artifacts are the wax-covered mummy of 1st-century martyr St. Pius and the tomb of Ponce de León, notorious Spanish conquistador and the first governor of Puerto Rico. Guided walking tours of Old San Juan typically include a stop at the church.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Entrance to San Juan Cathedral is free though donations are accepted.
- The church offers visitors a peaceful place to cool off and get away from the busyness of San Juan.
- The cathedral is currently the seat of Puerto Rico’s archdiocese and home to the Archbishop of San Juan.
How to Get There
San Juan Cathedral is located at 151 Calle del Cristo, across from El Convento Hotel and close to the San Juan Gate. Old San Juan offers a free trolley system with three different routes that include stops at top attractions such as the cathedral, allowing you to hop on and off where desired.
When to Get There
Mass takes place Sundays at 9am and 11am and weekdays at 7:25am and 12:15pm. If you’re traveling to Puerto Rico during the holiday season, you can attend Misa de Gallo, the Roman Catholic Mass that is celebrated before midnight on Christmas Eve. At San Juan Cathedral, watch enactments of the Nativity scene and see the festive decorations.
The Tomb of Ponce de León
On his search to discover the elusive Fountain of Youth, Ponce de León landed at a place he called Florida and later conquered Puerto Rico, eventually being appointed governor of the island in 1509. His original resting place was Iglesia de San Jose, but in the early 1900s he was transferred to San Juan Cathedral, where his body lies in a marble tomb near the transept.